How to become an Astronomer?
Physicists and astronomers will research to study the universe, using theoretical and abstract mathematics to develop theories about the world and everything within it. Physicists will review the fundamental laws which govern energy in motion, and how matter interacts. While some individuals will specialize in theoretical areas such as the origins of the universe, others will use their practical knowledge to develop advanced materials and medical equipment which will benefit humanity.
Theoretical physicists will design experimenters and lasers and microscopes to prove or disprove theories, eventually hoping to discover a law. Astronomers will instead specialize in using physics and math to study astral bodies in the universe such as planets, stars, comments, and galaxies. They will frequently solve problems with spaceflight and navigation and develop the instrumentation used to collect data in space.
Most research in the area of physics is done in small laboratories, whereas some larger products, such as electron colliders, can be quite large and require large teams of researchers. Physicists can specialize in elementary particles, molecular physics, matter, optics, space, and fluid mechanics. Other areas which they may specialize in can include crystallography and semiconductors, among others. The working conditions of these professionals may range from outer space to a solitary observatory, and most of these professionals will work 40 hours a week in a laboratory environment. Physicists will usually have to have a doctoral degree to conduct highly advanced theoretical research.
In 2006, these professionals had about 18,000 jobs in America, with physicists accounting for the overwhelming majority of those employed. Over a third of these individuals work for the Federal government in such agencies as NASA and the United States Department of Defense. The job outlook for astronomers is expected to be quite tame at about 7%, due to limited funding by the United States government.
Job prospects for those individuals working in applied research for private corporations should be quite strong, as increased advances in computing technology have required theoretical research into new nanotechnology which can create even smaller microchips. In 2006, the middle 50th percentile of physicists made between $72,910 and $117,080, with the middle 50th percentile of astronomers making between $62,050 in $125,420. In the same year, the American Institute of Physics reported that individuals with doctoral degrees had an average salary of $80,000.